By Karen Cassidy, MD, Market Medical Director of UnitedHealthcare of Arkansas
The Arkansas summer is in full swing and kids are playing outside as the temperatures rise, increasing their risk of dehydration.
Dr. Karen Cassidy, Medical Director for UnitedHealthcare of Arkansas, says hydration is particularly important for children, who have higher water requirements than adults. Their cooling system isn’t fully developed. Because the surface area of a child is smaller and sweat glands aren’t fully developed, it’s much harder for the child’s body to cool itself.
The amount a child should drink varies by age, gender, the weather and their level of physical activity. Since kids may not recognize the signs of thirst, adults are urged to watch for these signs of dehydration.
Common Signs of Mild Dehydration
• A dry or sticky mouth
• Few or no tears when crying
• Eyes that look sunken
• In babies, the soft spot (fontanelle) on top of the head looks sunken
• Peeing less or fewer wet diapers than usual
In summer children can become seriously dehydrated if parents and caregivers do no encourage fluids proactively and avoid situation were children are exposed to extreme heat. Avoid prolong activity in extreme heat and be very careful not to leave children or infants in a hot car.
You should contact your child’s health care provider if you notice:
• Eyes that look sunken
• Dry, cool skin
• Drowsiness or dizziness
• Gulps per 15 minutes: For every 15 minutes of outdoor activity, drink about four ounces of water. This is approximately four gulps.
• Increase hydration with popsicles, gelato, smoothies or yogurt: A great way to increase hydration in children is to make homemade popsicles or gelato with real fruit. Or mix up a fresh fruit smoothie made with coconut water, milk or milk substitute, or yogurt.
• Fruit, pretzels and goldfish: Every 30 to 45 minutes, give the child a small snack with salt and potassium to help protect against electrolyte loss and promote hydration. Pretzels, goldfish crackers or a cheese stick with some oranges, a banana or strawberries are good options.
• Skip the sugary drinks: Avoid sugary sodas and sports drinks, which were developed with an adult’s body in mind. Carbonated water mixed with fruit juice is a great alternative to soda. Use pieces of frozen fruit as ice cubes in water or seltzer waters.
• Remember small infants who are breast feeding or bottle feeding formula should not be given water. Breast feeding mothers need to be drinking adequate fluids to ensure good hydration for breast milk production. Do not over bundle infants or allow them to be exposed to extreme heat. Keep track of wet diapers and contact your provider if you have concerns.